Tel Aviv trials ‘zombie’ traffic lights to save smartphone users from themselves
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Tel Aviv trials ‘zombie’ traffic lights to save smartphone users from themselves

Pioneering LED warning strips on the sidewalk will hopefully be noticed by pedestrians with their heads down looking at their phones, and prevent them from walking into traffic

Tel Aviv testing new devices embedded in sidewalk to alert pedestrians when the stoplight has changed. (Screenshot, Channel 12 News)
Tel Aviv testing new devices embedded in sidewalk to alert pedestrians when the stoplight has changed. (Screenshot, Channel 12 News)

The city of Tel Aviv is testing out new “zombie” traffic lights, designed to save smartphone users too absorbed to look up and see the signals for themselves.

The phenomenon of pedestrians getting injured because they walk into traffic while focused on their phones has apparently caught the attention of Tel Aviv’s engineering department.

Bright LED light strips between two pylons have been set into the sidewalks at the intersection of David Bloch Street and Ibn Gvirol, turning red or green in sync with the traffic lights, Channel 12 News reported Tuesday.

Engineers hope that if smartphone users are already looking down, they might actually notice the bright lights on the floor.

For those who still can’t take they eyes off their phone screen, the strip will turn green when the traffic light changes to let them know they can now cross the intersection.

Similar devices have been installed in Europe, Singapore and Australia over the past few years, where they have been dubbed “zombie stop lights” due to smartphone users walking like zombies and paying no attention to the reality around them.

In Germany, the online dictionary company Langenscheidt chose the word “smombie” as its youth word-of-the-year in 2015. A smombie is defined as a smartphone zombie, one who is spellbound by their cell phone and does not look at their surroundings.

But the city is not taking anything for granted.

The pilot project in central Tel Aviv will study if pedestrians who are looking down at their mobile devices actually even notice the LED strips and stop before stepping into the intersection. Based on the results, the city will decide whether to install the devices in other parts of the city.

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